Pat Kraft focuses on progress on and off the pitch | City and Dress

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Patrick Kraft was born and raised in the northern suburbs of Chicago. His mother, Linda, was a schoolteacher and his father, Joe, owned a printing company. They set an example for their five children, including the second, Patrick.

“We were just going to play factory,” Kraft recalled. “They never let the company interfere in our home life. My dad ran this for most of his life. He was everything to me.

“He was a dynamic personality. He worked really hard. He was always there for us. He never wavered. He was fun. He was really special. I hope I’m like him.

Kraft officially began his new job as Penn State’s director of athletics and vice president of intercollegiate athletics on July 1, hoping he can have the same positive impact on athletes, coaches and staff. that her father had on his employees and that her mother had on her. students.

Kraft, 44, succeeds Sandy Barbour, who retired in June after eight years at Penn State. After two years as an AD at Boston College, Kraft takes charge of a department that has 31 varsity sports, more than 800 athletes and 340 employees, and had a budget of $165 million the year before the pandemic.

He spent most of June on campus getting to know his new staff and surroundings.

“I want them to know that I will be there to support and protect them,” Kraft said. “I try to create an open dialogue and make sure everyone knows they have a voice.

“If we work at a high level, the rest will take care of itself.”

Transformative years

Kraft has always understood the importance of a work ethic, perhaps thanks to his father, who died eight years ago, and his mother, who later taught English as a second language.

“We never knew the financial difficulties they would go through,” he says. “Everything we needed, they gave it to us. They made us go through Catholic schools.

“[Growing up] we were a very sporty and motivated family. It was all about sports.

Kraft played football, basketball, and baseball at Carmel Catholic High School before enrolling in Division III Illinois Wesleyan to play football. He spent two seasons there, then transferred to Indiana University Division I as an extra.

“I had a wonderful time at Wesleyan, but something was missing,” he recalled. “I knew I could play at the next level. I fell in love with Indiana. It was the best thing I’ve ever done. We didn’t win a lot of games, but it was transformative for me.

“It was how hard we had to work and the grind that came with it. I think that still resonates with me as the most impactful thing.

Kraft played linebacker for three seasons at Indiana University). (Photo courtesy of Indiana Athletics)

Kraft played linebacker for three seasons (1997-99) for the Hoosiers and eventually earned a scholarship and three degrees from Indiana – a bachelor’s degree in sports marketing management, a master’s degree in sports marketing administration, and a doctorate in management. Sport. He taught sports management and marketing at IU before becoming assistant athletic director there in 2009.

His older sister, Mary Therese, inspired him to go into sports administration.

“He was a mentor of mine,” Kraft says. “She came into the sports industry in its early days. She was with the [Chicago] Cubs, then she moved to Nike in Oregon. Now, she works for Jim Beam and runs their sponsorship arm, which is primarily athletic-focused.

“I watched what my sister was doing in the corporate and business world. It wasn’t the same excitement I felt interacting with college athletes and watching them succeed on and off the field. It just wasn’t the same. I really cherish that aspect of our business. I can’t imagine doing anything else.

“Aggressive in mental health”

Kraft moved on to Loyola University Chicago and Temple University, where he became an DA in 2015 and oversaw the Owls’ greatest period of football success before moving to Boston College in July 2020. he was only at BC two years, during his time there the Eagles built a new men’s basketball practice facility, upgraded locker rooms and practice rooms, and added staff in sports medicine, strength and conditioning, and mental health.

“We’re going to be aggressive on mental health,” Kraft said, looking ahead to the years to come with the Nittany Lions. “It’s difficult because of the pressure on these young women and men. The stories of death threats and suicidal thoughts are real.

“We have to be able to give them an outlet. We have to be able to allow them to be free and allow them to get rid of that burden and be able to live their lives.

bricks and mortar

Improving Penn State’s facilities will also be one of its top priorities, he says. During its five years as Temple AD, the Owls built a new practice complex with a grass field and a new complex for soccer, lacrosse and field hockey.

“We really need to focus on bricks and mortar,” Kraft says. “Our facilities, our Olympic facilities in particular, are woefully inadequate. I’m talking about weight rooms, nutrition and recovery rooms. These are the things that will help us grow and help us win championships.

“Men’s and women’s soccer, for example, is everywhere. It’s not true. They don’t have flush toilets in their facility. These are national championship programs. We need to correct this.

Collective NILs

Kraft says he will also focus on how to maximize name, image, and likeness (NIL) collectives for football players and other Penn State athletes.

“We have to sort this out,” he said. “I have a plan. It’s not something amazing. We just need to communicate better with all the constituencies. We have a great infrastructure, but we’re not supporting it in the right way.

“Coaches are on an island. The donors are on an island. I think we will have the best NIL situation in the country, but it will take time.

Football ‘drives the brand’

NIL has impacted football more than any other college sport. Kraft made it clear during his introductory press conference in April how he views football at Penn State.

“He’s a pilot,” he said. “Nationally, this is the engine of the brand. Football game day helps with recruitment for all other sports. I think it’s starting [with football] and everything else falls into that.

When asked where he sees Penn State football going in the next five years, he replies, “National champions is the goal.”

Kraft says excelling in football and the other 30 college sports aren’t mutually exclusive goals.

“Football is important, yes, but women’s football, wrestling, field hockey and all the other sports are too,” he says. “Everyone was important at BC. You need to strategize to provide other sports with what they need to be successful.

“We will succeed together. Everyone in the organization must do this. We all need to move in the right direction. That’s how everyone succeeds. T&G

Rich Scarcella covered Penn State football for the reading eagle since 1989.

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